This season promised so much for the Gooners. For what seemed like an eternity since The Invincibles’ era, the FA cup win looked like that springboard from where the Gunners could finally make their transition to genuine title challengers from being perennial pretenders to the throne. The signing of the flamboyant Ozil coupled with domestic cup success seemed to open up all new doors for the North London club, seemingly making the trip a seductive prospect for all the top players in world football. The signing of the talented Chilean, Sanchez seemed to be the perfect tadka in the daal. But a few average performances and a subsequent poor transfer window later, it seems Arsenal is doing a quintessential drunk Keshto Mukherjee (pity you if you don’t know this legend!)- taking a step forward and then 2 steps back. And perhaps more than most, manager Arsene Wenger is to blame here.
As deadline day approached, and Arsenal had arguably only 1 fit genuine striker (Sanogo) who the fans really didn’t want to see on the pitch in the famous red-and-white. The underrated Giroud had succumbed to a long-term injury lay-off, while the legendary Lord Bendtner had been shipped away for good. The Gooners had every right to be excited at the prospect of a World-class signing up front of names such as Falcao, Remy, Balotelli and Cerci had been doing the rounds among the rumour-mongers. But in a shocking twist for the fans, the only signings he made were autographs for the co-passengers in his flight to Rome to referee a charity match. Talk about toying with people’s feelings!
But wait, maybe Wenger did have something up his rather long sleeves. While United ended up with Falcao, Chelsea snapped up Remy and Liverpool got a new eccentric genius in Balotelli; Arsenal got the Mancunian Danny Welbeck. For the staunch backers of Wenger, Lord Welbeck had miraculously turned to Welbeast. Yet for the majority, Arsenal ended up signing yet another player who was pretty on the eyes outside the box, yet absolutely futile inside it. The statistics compounded their worries – the striker had failed to take his goal-tally to double digits or the second season running despite making numerous appearances. To be fair to him though, in many of those games, he featured on the wings.
Another major area of concern was the central midfield. While Arsene was blessed with the numbers, he should have ideally been displeased with the variety in the middle. Every single player manning the heart of the team was a delightful ball-player and none of them were blessed physically. Calls for a domineering presence in the middle in the shape of a guy like William Carvalho were made by the Gooners. Whether he snubbed the club or Wenger snubbed a chance to sign him would never be known, but what it does ensure is that Arsenal is bereft of a plan B.
The arrivals (or the lack of them) were not the only source of concern. After Viera, Henry, Gallas, Fabragas and van Persie, Wenger had managed to sell his club captain yet again in Thomas Vermaelaen. While the repercussions of that would not be seen directly on the pitch, it does threaten to destabilize the team off the field.
The odds have been considerably slashed by the bookies for a possible (and erstwhile unthinkable) Gunners finish outside the top 4 after the transfer window debacle. But one thing every football fan knows for sure; no matter how mundane might a decision by Wenger might seem, there is always an iota of method to his madness. Arsenal might yet achieve greatness this season with only sexy football in their arsenal. Welbeck might yet end up being a revitalized goal-machine under the guidance of the Professor. Arsenal might yet find their next great leader within the club. But the chances of all that happening grows slimmer by the day. Now with every opposition team having strengthened their squads considerably, the job becomes tougher than ever for Wenger. Every fan hopes for the sake of football, that the gunners do not get relegated to being a feeder club for the others. They are simply too big to be playing the second fiddle.
The time is ripe for Wenger to realize that.